Looking back at last years vegetable garden; I can’t believe I was actually proud of it. I made so many mistakes! And grew such sickly plants…So this time around I was determined to learn from my errors. Probably the biggest mistake I made last year was buying cheap crappy soil from Bunnings. Instead of ordering high quality vegetable growing soil from an actual landscaping company. I think getting quality soil this time around has made such a difference, and it didn’t even cost more than buying the rubbish generic stuff.
The other big thing has been getting to know what grows well in this climate and what doesn’t. And if you’re stubborn like me and determined to grow things that are sensitive and prone to diseases…learning how to prevent and control them. I live in what is considered to be a tropical climate, meaning regardless of season we get a lot more moisture. Heavy rain, and damp misty mornings. The silver lining being not having to worry about frost! I love growing zucchini and cucumbers. Which hate these conditions. And are extremely sensitive to developing powdery mildew.
So I’ve had to come up with a method to minimize the risk of this as much as possible. You might have noticed that there’s no mulch here. And that’s because I’m anti mulch. I believe it’s what led to a lot of the grief I had with my last vegetable garden, because the mulch creates the perfect storm for fungus spores and mold to spread. I’m sure others will feel differently, but I’ve decided I want nothing to do with it. Seasoned gardeners will look at how crowded my zucchini patch is and tut. Yes, it’s not ideal. But all of my seedlings took off and I didn’t have the room to plant them further apart, and I didn’t want to kill any of them either.
Instead I built little cages for them so that they could grow upwards instead of spreading out, and so far that’s working out pretty well for me. Because of how everything is crammed in, I have to make sure there’s still enough nutrients in the soil for plants to thrive. My solution has been adding good quality home made compost as often as possible and eggshells. On top of the obvious things like using a blood and bone fertilizer fortnightly. The eggshells scattered around the plants are there to maintain soil acidity, and to provide plants with the calcium vital for growth. We go through a lot of eggs in this household since Diago has a poached egg for breakfast every morning, so it’s very convenient.
Because this climate makes powdery mildew inevitable, the best thing I’ve learned so far is making a spray that’s 50/50 milk and water to control it. Last year I tried the bicarb spray solution and it was a total disaster, avoid at all cost. But the milk spray is extremely efficient and I’m certain it has saved my crops. Soon as I see the tell tale signs of the white powdery stuff appear, I remove the leaves that have it and do a thorough spray with the milk. Problem solved. The only problem I haven’t really been able to solve are the possums! I love all of our wildlife visitors, the parrots, the blue tongue lizards (who keep our property free from snails and slugs) but the possums are relentless about trying to get into the garden.
Which is why I have this big ugly net, not at all aesthetically pleasing but absolutely necessary. So far no possums have got in, but it doesn’t stop them from trying. Every night. So chasing them away has become Diago’s job. He always alerts me if there’s an attempt to get in and I let him out so he can send them on their merry way. It’s almost like there’s not enough food options for them all around…the various palm nuts that also grow in our yard, the macadamia tree next door, the guava tree…All they seem to care about is the forbidden vegetable patch.